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EU leaders agree to explore cutting accession funds to Turkey

EU leaders agreed to cut funds linked to Turkey’s frozen mem..

EU leaders agreed to cut funds linked to Turkey’s frozen membership bid in response to the authoritarian turn Ankara has taken since last year’s failed coup.

“We agreed … that we will ask the Commission to cut pre-accession aid in a responsible way,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in the early hours of Friday morning at the end of the first day of a summit in Brussels.

EU governments and human rights groups have heavily criticized Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for jailing judges, journalists and activists in the aftermath of the coup attempt in July last year.

Merkel has been under pressure at home to take a tougher line on Turkey, particularly as a number of German citizens have been detained in the country in recent months for what Berlin regards as political reasons.

Merkel said the human rights situation in Turkey was “anything but satisfactory” and the country was moving further and further away from “what we would call the rule of law.”

The official conclusions of the summit did not mention the agreement to cut back on funds to Turkey, stating merely that the leaders “held a debate on relations” with the country.

A senior EU diplomat said that was the only formulation everyone could agree upon.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte was nuanced in the way he explained the leaders’ agreement on Turkey.

“The Commission will investigate whether accession funding could be focused on the development of rule of law,” he said. “And that will probably also have consequences for the total expense ceiling because this automatically means there’d be fewer spending goals.”

But Rutte also said there was no support for stopping accession funds to Turkey entirely.

Philip Kaleta and Hanne Cokelaere contributed reporting.

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